Incentives in Western Canada every producer should know about

Natalie Nelson
Natalie Nelson Administrator Posts: 68
edited November 2023 in Producers

Alberta and Manitoba offer film and TV productions competitive tax incentive programs and versatile filming locations.

In a recent Master Series webinar we highlighting tax incentive programs available in three provinces on Canada’s east coast: Nova Scotia, Labrador and Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island. Now, let’s head west, where, in addition to British Columbia (one of the largest Canadian production hubs), film and television productions can find exceptionally competitive incentives available in Alberta and Manitoba.

Manitoba offers production perks, incentives, and resources

Manitoba is deeply dedicated to attracting productions to its film-friendly province. The province backs up its impressive tax incentive program with resources and infrastructure production teams can take advantage of throughout the filming process – from development to wrap. Here’s what you can expect if you decide to explore Manitoba as a potential hub for your next project.

From sprawling metros to arctic terrain, Manitoba has it all

Whether you seek beaches, cottage country, arctic terrain, or a Midwestern town - you can find it in Manitoba. Local cities double for big US metros, including Chicago, New York, Detroit, and San Francisco. You can also find a great stand-in for seaside Connecticut, northeastern Minnesota, or midwestern Missouri. And local architecture runs the gamut, offering everything from contemporary structures to residential neighborhoods to historic districts. Curious to see for yourself? Peruse the locations page of the Manitoba Film & Music website.

Manitoba provides robust production infrastructure

Manitoba Film & Music is a full-service film commission that offers a wide variety of programs and services to help producers maximize their budget and reduce hassles.

Throughout pre-production, the office provides digital location photo packages, detailed production and tax incentive information, and preliminary and follow-up location scouting services. They also provide access to resources that help navigate any logistics related to getting your project off the ground and assistance with acquiring all the necessary permits.

The historic Exchange District in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Once filming starts, producers enjoy 24-hour production support and access to government contacts who can address any issues that arise. Winnipeg's capital city also provides additional benefits, including access to office space, use of civic buildings (at no additional fee), and more.

From a facilities standpoint, you'll find a purpose-built studio with 15,000 square feet of clear space supported by office space, a carpentry shop, wardrobe, a commissary, and loading docks. Many different warehouses are also available throughout the area.

During post, filmmakers can take advantage of companies like Frantic Films, which has expert VFX teams on standby, ready to support you as you take your film to the finish line. Their offices are equipped with the latest Avid technology and a Dolby 5.1 mixing theater. You can also request on-site edit suites or access to ready-to-use facilities.

Manitoba’s Tax Incentive Program

Known as the 'most competitive tax credit in Canada,' Manitoba's 15-year-old tax incentive program, which has no caps or limits, offers credits up to 65%. The province doesn't require the involvement of a broker, and producers don't have to partner with local companies to access the credit, but you can receive a bonus credit if you do!

Manitoba provides two different tax credit options, allowing producers to select the one that’s most beneficial to their budget. Here's a breakdown of the program details:

  • Cost of Salaries Tax Credit: This program provides production companies with a fully refundable corporate income tax credit for eligible Manitoba labor expenses. It offers a 45% base credit, and additional bonuses may apply for principal photography shot in rural areas, the use of Manitoba-based producers, and bringing repeat projects to the province. With all bonuses in place, productions can earn a credit for up to a stunning 65% of eligible Manitoba labor expenditures.
  • Cost of Production Tax Credit: One of the most comprehensive all-spend tax incentive programs in Canada, Manitoba's Cost of Production credit provides a fully refundable corporate income tax credit. Productions receive a base credit of 30% but partnering with an eligible Manitoba production company earns you an extra 8%, boosting the credit to 38% of all eligible Manitoba production expenditures, including labor.

To be eligible for either of these tax credit options, applicants must be:

  1. Incorporated in Canada
  2. Permanently established in Manitoba, and
  3. A taxable Canadian corporation that primarily operates as a film or video production

Eligible projects include digital and web-based productions and fully financed feature films, documentaries, dramatic series, variety, multimedia, children's programming, animation, music programming, informational series, and television movies.

For more information, visit the Manitoba Film & Music tax credit site, or check out the Cost of Salaries FAQs and Cost of Production FAQs.

Alberta receives accolades for all-inclusive production perks

Moving further westward, productions can find even more benefits in the film-friendly province of Alberta. Calgary, the flagship city of Alberta, was named one of the best places to work and live as a filmmaker in 2022 by MovieMaker Magazine. The city placed 10th among 25 big cities in North America. Many things are taken into consideration in compiling the list of top cities, including incentive programs, production spending, location variety, government support, and recent productions.

Damian Petti, the president of IATSE Local 212, says, "Our capacity has massively increased by tenfold in terms of sound stages. And then our attractiveness for the film incentives, the tax credit, has also increased – so it's not surprising that we're climbing the charts."

Though Calgary was the city named, Petti explained that the acknowledgment speaks more broadly to Alberta’s appeal as a great place to film. The province has been working hard to be competitive and attract more productions to the area.

Calgary, Alberta

Alberta is always camera-ready

Producers will find gritty streetscapes, character-filled cities locked in a ‘simpler time,’ picturesque mountains and lakes with awe-inspiring vistas, ranches, and small towns situated between dusty western trails. If rural is your scene, local forests, prairies, foothills, and badlands are just a few hours' drive from any major city.

Whatever era and location you want to portray, Alberta has the perfect spot. And if it doesn't exist naturally, an abundance of purpose-built backlots can help you bring your vision to life. Add the benefit of having 16-hour long days of sunlight, and you can see why Alberta is an attractive option. When you're ready to start scouting, check out Alberta's locations library.

Alberta investments in production infrastructure

Alberta offers expert post-production services and a resource directory on the Alberta Post Production Association website. As for stage facilities, the Calgary Film Centre – an 80,000 square-foot production studio and warehouse – has been booked at 100% occupancy since July 2019. In large part, this is due to recent changes to the province’s tax credit program, which we’ll discuss below.

Alberta's Tax Credit program

The Alberta Film and Television Tax Credit (FTTC) offers a refundable Alberta tax credit certificate on eligible Alberta production and labor costs to corporations that produce films, television series, and other eligible screen-based productions in the province. Applicants can apply for either a 22% or 30% tax credit rate certificate.

The province's fund has a $70 million budget for 2022 to 2023 and $225 million to be used through 2024 and 2025. A previous $10 million cap was removed at the end of March 2021 in an effort to draw larger projects to the area. The decision was made after local industry leaders and government officials met with large studios to calculate the financial impact of productions on the local economy. Data revealed that productions generate $4 for every $1 of tax incentive money spent, further evidence that eliminating the incentive cap was a smart move for the province.

Luke Azevedo, the film commissioner with Calgary Economic Development, says that decision was a game changer. "What Minister Schweitzer was able to do with the change in the incentives hit the mark globally, and we felt the impact immediately.” Boy, did they! In 2019, Alberta’s film and television industry brought in $250 million of work. In 2021, Alberta brought in high-profile projects, like HBO’s 'The Last of Us'and that number rose to an estimated $482 million.

Eligibility criteria for corporations and productions

Eligible corporations may apply for the Alberta FTTC on their qualified productions. Note, principal photography must not have started before the application is submitted.

Corporations must be primarily engaged in film, television, or digital media production and must be incorporated in Alberta to be eligible for funding. Productions must have total production costs of $499,999 CAD or greater, and must not receive funding from the Alberta Production Grant or the Alberta Screen-Based Production Grant.

Check out the Alberta FTTC program guidelines for eligibility criteria, incentive details, and instructions on how to apply.

Maximize your budget wherever you film with EP

As Canada's leading film and TV tax incentive administration provider, EP's expertise is an unmatched resource for productions. We service jurisdictions all across Canada and can help you find the perfect province to film your next project. When you're ready to start scouting, check out our incentive map to get an idea of what kind of tax credit programs are available. Then, contact EP Canada's tax incentive team when you're ready for an estimate.

Never miss an article by our experts! Check out our entire library of blogs at ep.com/blog

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